1.2. Color Management Today
Color management as we know it today originated in the printing industry, where development of the photo-reproductive technique and the printing press introduced processes that have been carried forward to the computer revolution of today.
Even in the early days of the printing press, managing color was crucial both for accurate reproduction and for cost reduction. Often relying on trial and error, press operators developed an instinct for how their particular machines behaved. As time went on, experts in the printing industry developed new techniques to assist in accurately predicting color.
Color management has gone through many changes over the past decadefrom incorporating color spaces within digital cameras to allowing the proper algorithms from computer operating systems. The good news is that using the science of color management to obtain predictable results is becoming easier and easier. We can assert consistent control over the equipment, and more importantly, software and firmware can accurately and automatically funnel input color spaces into output or device color spaces.
Today, almost all color reproduction is created and processed via computers. So when we speak of color management, we are usually referring to ICC color management. A great deal of color management is accomplished by using established profiles for specific devices, most notably ICC profiles. Made up of over 70 companies, including HP, Adobe, Microsoft, Kodak, Fuji, and many more, the ICC (International Color Consortium) is an impressive group of technical representatives from manufacturers and software developers dedicated to improving color management technology.
Although ICC color management is an evolving standard and is far from perfect, it is used a great deal and performs very well indeed for many users. The ability to use ICC profiles to manage color from one device to another has brought a level of consistency that allows a workflow to obtain predictable results from the very first try.
1.2.1. Profiles Create Common Language
Device-independent calibration is one of the reasons color management has become easier to control. When we calibrate a device today, we start with a standard setting for that device rather than tweaking the settings to emulate another device, whereas in years past, we would, for example, calibrate a monitor to simulate a print from our lab or ink-jet printer.
Today, manufactures of digital cameras, scanners, and printers (as well as makers of profiling equipment, software developers, and creators of advanced device drivers) have for the most part added the necessary options to allow for proper color management.
However, even with the ease of today's technology, workarounds still have to be implemented in some workflows to compensate for older equipment, software, and operating systems that may not yield compatible results.
What should you do? Take the responsibility to understand the characteristics of the devices that you are using, including digital cameras, scanners, monitors, printers, and projectors. You can calibrate and use a device at a known set of specifications and learn how it yields consistent results. Based on this experience, you can predict the final results. It is then possible to manage an image file from one device to another with the added ability to see the proper pixel data (color and tone) on a monitor and get predictable results every time.
In the most basic sense, there are three stages of a color-managed workflow:
As we'll see in Chapter 4, these stages can actually be part of a seamless or automatic workflow. In any case, the spine of a successful color-managed workflow is working with a color space and calibrated and profiled devices as well as having the means to convert the color space to an output device before printing.
Consistency is the key, as you will read many times in this book, of any workflow, whether it is color-managed or not. Predictability is what you must demand. Whether you like an image or not, if you can predict how it will look once printed, you can then take control to obtain the results you want, consistently.